Any product or brand enters the free-for-all marketplace at its own risk. Consumers have to sort through endless choices and marketers have to capture their attention in seconds by rising above the noise.
Due to many human frailties ranging from poor attention span, preconceived bias, rational and emotional responses, and personal behaviors and attitudes, it’s difficult to break through filters and capture mindshare, especially in crowded markets. This gives rise to challenges and opportunities associated with marketing. While the marketing and media mix provides a framework to create distinction, they are tools to support differentiation––the act of creating higher visibility for your product or brand by being different.
Rather than follow the herd, differentiation is about separating and standing out from the competition. This can be addressed, as Apple® has demonstrated, with physical differentiation through design elements, imagery and creating a halo effect through associations with symbols, spokespersons, messaging, packaging, features and product or brand positioning. You need to ask yourself, what is the unique selling proposition (USP) of what you’re promoting? For Nike®, it’s design and athlete association. For others, it’s positioning against the competition.
This can be illustrated by 7UP® contrasting against Pepsi® and Coke® as “the uncola.” At the end of the day, focus on what you want your product to stand for, identify the core capabilities of your organization in support of the product and brand, and align it with a promise that can be kept in terms of the customer experience, engaging the sum total of doing business with your firm.
While some attempt to differentiate their propositions by creating price, feature or service advantage, others position against complexity. CapitalOne® stood out from the crowd by creating a no-frills credit card. In this instance, it was the uncola of payment options.
Nomenclature or product naming can help a brand or product differentiate. Having a catchy name or logo creates memorability. This, in turn, helps break through mind clutter and provides a shortcut to recall and, subsequently, buy signals. The primary goal is for your product or brand to be selected among a proliferation of choices, resulting in impulse, thoughtful sales, and ongoing customer satisfaction.